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NAPOLEOFS YIEWS OF RELIGION. 

BY H. A. TAINE. 



The church is a mighty force, a distinct, permanent social 
influence of the highest order, and every political calculation in 
which it is omitted, or in which it is treated as of little conse- 
quence, is unsound. Every head of a state, therefore, who would 
estimate the vastness of this influence must consider its nature. 



This is what Napoleon does. As usual with him, in order to 
see deeper into others, he begins by examining himself. " To say 
from whence I came, what I am, or where I am going, is above 
my comprehension. I am the watch that runs, but unconscious 
of itself." These questions, which we are unable to answer, 
" drive us onward to religion; we rush forward to welcome her, 
for that is our natural tendency. But knowledge comes and we 
stop short. Instruction and history, you see, are the great ene- 
mies of religion, disfigured by the imperfections of humanity. 
. . . I once had faith. But when I came to know something, 
as soon as I began to reason, which occurred early in life, at the 
age of thirteen, I found my faith attacked and that it staggered." 
This double personal conviction is an after-thought, when prepar- 
ing the concordat. " It is said that I am a Papist. I am nothing. 
In Egypt I was a Mussulman ; here I shall be a Catholic, for the 
good of the people. I do not believe in religions. The idea of a 
God ! " And then, pointing upward : " Who made all that ? " 
The imagination has decorated this great name with its legends. 
Let us content ourselves with those already existing ; " the dis- 
quietude of man is such that he cannot do without them ; in de- 
fault of those already made he would fashion others, haphazard, 
and still more strange. The positive religions keep man from go- 
ing astray ; it is these which render the supernatural definite and 



568 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

precise ; he had better take it in there than elsewhere, . . . 
at Mademoiselle Lenormand's, in the stories got up by every 
adventurer, every charlatan, that comes along." An estab- 
lished religion " is a kind of vaccination which, in satisfying 
our love of the marvellous, guarantees us against quacks and sorcer- 
ers ; the priests are far better than the Cagliostros, Kants, and the 
rest of the German mystics." In sum, illuminism and metaphys- 
ics, the speculative inventions of the brain and the contagious 
overexcitement of the nerves, all the illusions of credulity, are un- 
healthy in their essence, and, in general, anti-social. Neverthe- 
less, as they belong to human nature, let us accept them like so 
many streams tumbling down a slope, except that they remain in 
their own beds, and, in many of them, no new beds, and not in 
one bed alone by itself. " I do not want a dominant religion, nor 
the establishment of new ones. The Catholic, Reformed, and 
Lutheran systems, established by the concordat, are sufficient. " 
With these one need not grope one's way in the unknown. Their 
direction and force are intelligible, and their irruptions can be 
guarded against. Moreover, the present inclinations and config- 
uration of the human soil favor them ; the child follows the 
road marked out by the parent, and the man follows the road 
marked out by the child. For instance : 

" Last Sunday, here at Malmaison, while strolling alons 
in the solitude enjoying the repose of nature, my ear suddenly 
caught the sound of the church bell at Ruel. It affected me, 
so strong is the force of early habits and education ! I said 
to myself, What an impression this must make on simple, credu- 
lous souls ! " Let us gratify these ; let us give back these bells 
and the rest to the Catholics. After all, the general effect of 
Christianity is salutary. " As far as I am concerned, I do not 
see in it the mystery of the incarnation, but the mystery of social 
order, the association of religion with paradise, an idea of equality 
which keeps the rich from being massacred by the poor. . . . 
Society could not exist without an inequality of fortunes, and an 
inequality of fortunes without religion. A man dying of starva- 
tion alongside of one who is surfeited would not yield to this dif- 
ference unless he had some authority which assured him that 
God so orders it, that there must be both poor and rich in the 
world, but that in the future, and throughout eternity, the por- 
tion of each will be changed." 



NAPOLEON'S VIEWS OF RELIGION. 569 

Alongside of the repressive police exercised by the state 
there is a preventive police exercised by the church. The clergy, 
in its cassock, is an additional spiritual gendarmerie, much more 
efficient than the temporal gendarmerie in its stout boots, while 
the essential thing is to make both keep step together in concert. 
Between the two domains, between that which belongs to civil 
authority and that which belongs to religions authority, is there 
any boundary line of separation ? "I do not see where to place 
it ; its existence is j>urely chimerical. I look in vain ; I see only 
clouds, obscurities, difficulties. The civil government condemns 
a criminal to death ; the priest gives him absolution and offers 
him paradise." In relation to this act both powers operate pub- 
licly in an inverse sense on the same individual, one with the 
guillotine and the other with a pardon. As these authorities may 
clash with each other, let us prevent conflicts and leave no unde- 
fined frontier ; let us trace this out beforehand ; let us indicate 
what our part is and not allow the church to encroach on the state. 

The church really wants all ; it is the accessory which she 
concedes to us, while she appropriates the principal to herself. 
" Mark the insolence of the priests who, in sharing authority 
with what they call the temporal power, reserve to themselves all 
action on the mind, the noblest part of man, and take it on them- 
selves to reduce my part merely to physical action. They retain 
the soul and fling me the corpse ! " In antiquity, things were 
much better done, and are still better done now in Mussulman 
countries. " In the Roman republic, the senate was the inter- 
preter of heaven, and this was the mainspring of the force and 
and strength of that government. In Turkey, and throughout 
the Orient, the Koran serves as both a civil and religious bible. 
Only in Christianity do we find the pontificate distinct from the 
civil government." And even this has occurred only in one branch 
of Christianity. Everywhere, except in Catholic countries, "in 
England, in Russia, in the northern monarchies, in one part of 
Germany, the legal union of the two powers, religious control 
in the hands of the sovereign," is an accomplished fact. " One 
cannot govern without it ; otherwise, the repose, dignity, and inde- 
pendence of a nation are disturbed at every moment." It is a 
pity that " the difficulty cannot be overcome as with Henry VIII. 
in England. The head of the state would then, by legislative 
statute, be the supreme chief of the French church." 



570 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

Unfortunately, France is not so disposed. Napoleon often 
tries to bring this about, but is satisfied that in this matter " he 
would never obtain national cooperation "; once " embarked," 
fully engaged in the enterprise, " the nation would have aban- 
doned him." Unable to take this road, he takes another, which 
leads to the same result. As he himself afterwards states, this 
result "was, for a long time and always, the object of his wishes 
and meditations. . . . It is not his aim to change the faith 
of his people ; he respects spiritual objects and wants to rule them 
without meddling with them ; his aim is to make these square ivith 
Ms views, with his policy, but only through the influence of 
temporal concerns." That spiritual authority should remain 
intact ; that it should operate on its own speculative domain, that 
is to say, on dogmas, and on its practical domain, namely, on the 
sacraments and on worship ; that it should be sovereign on this lim- 
ited territory, Napoleon admits, for such is the fact, and we have 
only to open our eyes to see it. Right or wrong, spiritual authority is 
recognized sovereign through the persistent, verified loyalty of be- 
lievers, obeyed, effective — in other words, a powerful force. It can- 
not be done away with by supposing it non-existent ; on the contrary, 
a competent statesman will maintain it in order to make use of it 
and apply it to civil purposes. Like an engineer who comes 
across a prolific spring near his manufactory, he does not try to 
dry it up, nor let the water be dispersed and lost ; he has no idea 
of letting this remain inactive ; on the contrary, he collects it, 
digs channels for it, directs and economizes the flow, and renders 
the water serviceable in his workshops. In the Catholic Church, 
the authority to be won and utilized is that of the clergy over be- 
lievers and that of the sovereign pontiff over the clergy. " You will 
see," exclaimed Bonaparte, while negotiating the concordat, "how 
I will turn the priests to account, and, first of all, the Pope ! " 

" Had no Pope existed," he says again, " it would have been 
necessary to create him for the occasion, as the Roman consuls 
created a dictator under difficult circumstances." He alone could 
effect the coup d'etat which the First Consul needed, in order 
that he might constitute the new head of the government a 
patron of the Catholic Church, to bring independent or refrac- 
tory priests under subjection, to sever the canonical cord which 
hound the French clergy to its exiled superiors and to the old 
order of things, " to break the last thread by which the Bour- 



NAPOLEON'S VIEWS OF RELIGION. 571 

bona still communicated with the country." " Fifty emigr'e 
bishops in the pay of England now lead the French clergy. 
Their influence must be got rid of, and to do this the 
authority of the Pope is essential ; he can dismiss or make 
them resign." Should any of them prove obstinate and un- 
willing to descend from their thrones, their refusal brings 
them into discredit, and they are " designated as rebels who pre- 
fer the things of this world, their terrestrial interests to the 
interests of heaven and the cause of God." The great body of 
the clergy along with their flocks will abandon them ; they will 
soon be forgotten, like old sprouts transplanted whose roots have 
been cut off ; they will die abroad, one by one, while the succes- 
sor, who is now in office, will find no difficulty in rallying the 
obedient around him, for, being Catholic, his parishioners are so 
many sheep, docile, taken with externals, impressionable, and 
ready to follow the pastoral crook, provided it bears the ancient 
trademark, consists of the same material, is of the same form, is 
conferred from on high, and is sent from Rome. The bishops 
having once been consecrated by the Pope, nobody save a Gregory 
or some antiquarian canonist will dispute their jurisdiction. 

The ecclesiastical ground is thus cleared through the inter- 
position of the Pope. The three groups of authorities thereon 
which contend with each other for the possession of consciences — 
the refugee bishops in England, the apostolic vicars, and the con- 
stitutional clergy — disappear, and now the cleared ground can be 
built on. "The Catholic religion being declared that of the 
majority of the French people, its services must now be regulated. 
The First Consul nominates fifty bishops whom the Pope conse- 
crates. These appoint the cures, and the state pays their salaries. 
The latter may take the oath, while the priests icho do not submit 
are sent out of the country. Those who preach against the gov- 
ernment are handed over to their superiors for punishment. The 
Pope confirms the sale of clerical possessions ; he consecrates the 
Republic." The faithful no longer regard it askance. They 
feel that they are not only tolerated, but protected 
by it, and they are grateful. The people revere their churches, 
their cures, the forms of worship to which they are almost in- 
stinctively accustomed, the ceremonial which, to their imagina- 
tion, belongs to every important act of their lives, the solemn 
rites of marriage, baptism, burial, and other sacramental offices. 



572 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

Henceforth mass is said every Sunday in each village, and the 
peasants enjoy their processions on Corpus-Christi day, when their 
crops are blessed. A great public want is satisfied. Discontent 
subsides, ill-will dies out, the government has fewer enemies ; its 
enemies, again, lose their best weapon, and, at the same time, it 
acquires an admirable one, the right of appointing bishops and of 
sanctioning the cures. By virtue of the concordat and by order 
of the Pope, not only, in 1801, do all former spiritual authorities 
cease to exist, but again, after 1801, all new titularies, with the 
Pope's assent, chosen, accepted, managed, disciplined, and paid 
by the First Consul, are, in fact, his creatures, and become his 
functionaries. 

Over and above this positive and real service obtained from 
the sovereign pontiff, he awaits others yet more important and 
undefined, and principally his future coronation in Notre Dame. 
Already, during the negotiations for the concordat, La Payette 
had observed to him with a smile : " You want the holy oil 
dropped on your head " ; to which he made no contradictory 
answer. On the contrary, he replied, and probably too with a 
smile : " We shall see ! We shall see ! " Thus does he think 
ahead, and his ideas extend beyond that which a man belonging 
to the ancient regime could imagine or divine, even to the recon- 
struction of the empire of the west as this existed in the year 
800. ' I am not the successor of Louis XIV.," he soon declares, 
"but of Charlemagne. ... I am Charlemagne, because, 
like Charlemagne, I unite the French crown with that of the 
Lombards, and my empire borders on the Orient." " Had I re- 
turned victorious from Moscow, I intended to exalt the Pope be- 
yond measure, to surround him with pomp and deference. I 
would have brought him to no longer regretting his tempo- 
rality ; I would have made him an idol. He would have 
lived alongside of me. Paris would have become the capital of 
Christendom, and I would have governed the religious world the 
same as the political world. ... I would have had my re- 
ligious as well as legislative sessions ; my councils would have 
represented Christianity ; the Popes would have been merely their 
presidents. I would have opened and closed these assemblies, 
sanctified and published their decrees, as was done by Constan- 
tine and Charlemagne." The Pope, as with the marshals and the 
new dukes, must have a landed income settled on him, consisting 



NAPOLEON'S VIEWS OF RELIGION. 573 

of "property in different parts of the empire, two millions of 
rural revenue free of all taxation." Necessarily the Pope must 
have two palaces, one at Paris and the other at Home. He is 
already nearly fully installed in Paris, his person being all that 
was lacking. On arriving from Fontainebleau, two hours off, he 
would find everything belonging to his office ; "the papers of the 
missions and the archives of Rome were already there." " The 
Hotel Dieu was entirely given up to the departments of the court 
of Rome. The district around Notre Dame and the He St. Louis 
was to be the headquarters of Christendom." Rome, the second cen- 
tre of Christendom, and the second residence of the Pope, is 
declared "an imperial and free city, the second city of the em- 
pire "; a prince of the empire, or other grand dignitary, is to 
reside there and "hold the court of the emperor." "After their 
coronation in the cathedral of Notre Dame at Paris, the em- 
perors " will go to Italy before the tenth year of their reign, and 
be "crowned in the church of St. Peter at Rome." The heir to 
the imperial throne " will bear the title and- receive the honors of 
the King of Rome." Observe the substantial features of this 
chimerical construction. Napoleon, far more Italian than French", 
Italian by race, by instinct, imagination, and souvenir, considers 
in his plan the future of Italy, and, on casting up the final ac- 
counts of his reign, we find that the net profit is for Italy and 
the net loss is for Prance. Since Theodoric and the Lombard 
kings, the Pope, in preserving his temporal sovereignty and 
spiritual omnipotence, has maintained the sub-divisions of Italy ; 
let this obstacle be removed and Italy will once more become a 
nation. Napoleon prepares the way, and constitutes it before- 
hand by restoring the Pope to his primitive condition, by with- 
drawing from him his temporal sovereignty and limiting his 
spiritual omnipotence, by reducing him to the position of manag- 
ing director of Catholic consciences and head minister of the 
principal cult authorized in the empire. 

In carrying out this plan, he will use the French clergy in 
mastering the Pope, as the Pope has been made use of in master- 
ing the French clergy. To this end, before completing the concor- 
dat and decreeing the organic articles, he orders for himself a 
small library, consisting of books on ecclesiastical law. The 
Latin works of Bossuet are translated for him, and he has drawn 
up an exposition of the Callican parliamentary doctrine. The 



574 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

first thing is to go down to the roots of the subject, which he does 
with extraordinary facility, and then, recasting and shaping the 
theories to suit himself, he arrives at an original, individual con- 
ception, at once coherent, precise, and practical ; one which 
covers the ground and which he applies alike to all churches, 
Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and even Jewish, to every 
religious community now existing and in time to come. So long 
as belief remains silent and solitary, confined within the limits of 
individual conscience, it is free, and the state has nothing to do 
with it. But let it act outside these limits, address the public, 
bring people together in crowds for a common purpose, manifest 
itself visibly, it is subject to control ; forms of worship, cere- 
monies, preaching, instruction, and propagandism, the donations 
it provokes, the assemblies it convenes, the organization and 
maintenance of the bodies it engenders, all the positive applica- 
tions of the inward rosary, are temporal works. In this sense, 
they form a province of the public domain, and come within the 
competency of the government of the administration, and of the 
courts. The state has a right to interdict, to tolerate, or to 
authorize them, and to direct their activity at all times. Sole 
and universal proprietor of the outward realm in which single 
consciences may communicate with each other, it intervenes, step 
by step, either to trace or to bar the way ; the road they follow 
passes over its ground and belongs to it ; its watch, accordingly, 
over their proceedings is, and should be, daily ; and it maintains 
this watch for its own advantage, for the advantage of civil and 
political interests, in such a way that concern for the other world 
may be serviceable and not prejudicial to matters which belong to 
this one. In short, and as a summary, the First Consul says, in 
a private conversation : " The people want a religion, and this 
religion should be in the hands of the government ! " 

II. 

A few months after the publication of the concordat, Mademoi- 
selle Chameron, an opera-dancer, dies, and her friends bear her 
remains to the Church of St. Roch for interment. The curd, 
very rigid, " in a fit of ill-humor," refuses to officiate, and he 
shuts the doors of the church ; a crowd gathers, which shouts and 
launches threats at the cure ; an actor makes a speech to appease 



NAPOLEON'S VIEWS OF RELIGION. 575 

the tumult, and finally the coffin is borne off to the Church of 
Les Filles St. Thomas, where the cure, "familiar with the words 
of the gospel," performs the funeral service. Incidents of this 
kind disturb the tranquillity of the streets and denote a relaxation 
of administrative discipline. Consequently the government, 
doctor in theology and canon law, intervenes and calls the 
ecclesiastical superior to account. The First Consul, in an 
article in the Moniteur, haughtily gives the clergy their 
countersign and explains the course that will be pursued 
against them by their prelates. " The Archbishop of Paris 
orders the cure of St. Eoch into a retreat of three months, in 
order that he may bear in mind the injunction of Jesus Christ to 
pray for one's enemies, and, made sensible of his duties by medi- 
tation, may become aware that these superstitious customs, which 
degrade religion by their absurdities, have been done away with 
by the concordat and the law of Germinal 18." Henceforth all 
priests and cures must be prudent, circumspect, obedient, and 
reserved, for their spiritual superiors are so, and could not be 
otherwise. Bach prelate, posted in his diocese, is maintained 
there in isolation ; a watch is kept on his correspondence ; 
he can communicate with the Pope only through the Min- 
ister of Worship ; he has no right to act in concert with 
his colleagues ; all the general assemblies of the clergy, 
all metropolitan councils, all annual synods, are suppressed. 

The church of France has ceased to exist as one corps, 
while its members, carefully detached from each other and 
from their Roman head, are no longer united, but juxtaposed, 
confined to a circumscription like the prefect ; the bishop himself 
is simply an ecclesiastical prefect, a little less uncertain of his 
tenure of office ; undoubtedly his removal will not be effected by 
order, but he can be forced to send in his resignation. Thus, in 
his case, as well as for the prefect, his first care will be not to ex- 
cite displeasure, and the next one, to please. To stand well at 
court, with the minister and with the sovereign, is a positive 
command, not only on personal grounds, but for the sake of 
Catholic interests. To obtain scholarship for the pupils of his 
seminary, to appoint the teachers and the director that sent him, 
to insure the acceptance of his canons, cantonal cur6s, and his 
candidates for the priesthood, to exempt his sub-deacons from the 
conscription, to establish and to defray the expenses of the 



576 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

chapels of his diocese, to provide parishes with the indispensable 
priest, with regular services, and with the sacraments, requires 
favors, which favors cannot be enjoyed without manifestations of 
obedience and zeal, and, more important still, without devotedness. 

Besides all this, he is himself a man. If Napoleon has 
selected him, it is on account of his intelligence, knowing 
what he is about, open to human motives, not too rigid and of 
too easy conscience ; in the eyes of the master, the first of all 
titles has ever been a supposable, docile character, associated with 
attachment to his person and system. Moreover, with his candi- 
dates, he has always taken into consideration the hold they give 
him through their weaknesses, vanity, and necessities, their osten- 
tatious ways and expenditure, their love of money, titles, and pre- 
cedence, their ambition, desire for promotion, enjoyment of credit, 
right of petitioning, of prestige, and the establishment of social 
relationships. He avails himself of all these advantages and finds 
that they answer his purpose. With the exception of three or four 
saints like Monseigneur d'Avran or Monseigneur Dessolles, whom 
he has inadvertently put with the episcopate, the bishops are con- 
tent to be barons and the archbishops counts. They are glad to 
rank higher and higher in the Legion of Honor ; they loudly as- 
sert, in praise of the new order of things, the honors and digni- 
ties it confers on these or those prelates who have become members 
of the legislative corps or been made senators. Many of them re- 
ceive secret pay for secret services, pecuniary incentives in the 
shape of this or that sum in ready money. In total, Napoleon has 
judged accurately ; with hesitation and remorse, nearly the whole 
of his episcopal staff, Italian and French, sixty-six prelates out 
of eighty, are open to "temporal influences." They yield to 
his seductions and threats ; they accept or submit, even in 
spiritual matters, to his final determination. 

Moreover, among these dignitaries, nearly all of whom are 
blameless, or, at least, who behave well and are generally honor- 
able, Napoleon finds a few whose servility is perfect, unscru- 
pulous individuals ready for anything, whatever an absolute prince 
could desire, like Bishops Bernier and De Pancemont, one accept- 
ing a reward of 30,000 francs and the other the sum of 50,000 
francs for the vile part -they played in the negotiations for the 
concordat ; or miserly, brutal, cynic-like Maury, archbishop of 
Paris ; or an intriguing, mercenary sceptic like De Pradt, arch- 



NAPOLEON'S VIEWS OF BELIGION. 677 

bishop of Malines ; or an old imbecile, falling on his knees before 
the civil power, like Rousseau, bishop of Orleans, who indites a 
pastoral letter declaring that the Pope is as free in his Savona 
prison as on his throne at Rome. After 1806, Napoleon, that he 
may control men of greater suppleness, prefers to take his prelates 
from old noble families — the frequenters of Versailles, who 
regard the episcopate as a gift bestowed by the prince and not by 
the Pope, a lay favor reserved for younger sons, a present made 
by the sovereign to those around his person, on the understood 
condition that the partisan courtier who is promoted shall remain 
a courtier of the master. Henceforth nearly all his episcopal 
recruits are derived from "members of the old race." "Only 
these," says Napoleon, "know how to serve well." 

From the first year the effect arrived at is better than could 
be expected. " Look at the clergy," said the First Consul to 
Roederer ; " every day shows that in spite of themselves their de- 
votion to the government is increasing, and much beyond their 
anticipation. Have you seen the pastoral declaration of Boisgelin, 
archbishop of Tours ? He says that the actual government is the 
legitimate government, that God disposes of thrones and kings 
as he pleases; that he adopts the chiefs whom the people prefer. 
You yourself could not have said that better." But, notwith- 
standing that this is said in the pastoral letter, it is again said in 
the catechism. No ecclesiastical publication is more important; 
all Catholic children have to learn this by heart,' for the phrases 
they recite will be firmly fixed in their memories. Bossuet's 
catechism is good enough, but it may be improved, — there 
is nothing that time, reflection, emulation, and admin- 
istrative zeal cannot render perfect ! Bossuet teaches children 
" to respect all superiors, pastors, kings, magistrates, and the rest." 
" These generalities," says Portalis, " no longer suffice. They do 
not give the proper tendency to the subject's submission. The 
object is to centre the popular conscience on the person of Your 
Majesty." Accordingly, let us be precise, make appointments, 
and secure support. The imperial catechism, a great deal more 
explicit than the royal catechism, adds significant developments 
to the old one, along with extra motives : " We especially owe to 
our Emperor, Napoleon the First, love, respect, obedience, fidel- 
ity, military service, and tributes ordained for the preservation of 
the empire and his throne. . . . For God has raised him up 
VOL. clii.— NO. 414. 37 



578 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

for us in times of peril that he might restore public worship and 
the holy religion of our fathers and be its protector." Every boy 
and girl in each parish recite this to the vicar or cure after ves- 
pers in their tiny voices as a commandment of God and of the 
church, as a supplementary article of the creed. Meanwhile the 
officiating priest gravely comments on this article, already clear 
enough, at every morning or evening service ; by order, he preaches 
in behalf of the conscription and declares that it is a sin to try to 
escape from it, to be refractory ; by order, again, he reads the army 
bulletins giving accounts of the latest victories ; always by order, he 
reads the last pastoral letter of his bishop, a document author- 
ized, inspired, and corrected by the police. Not only are the 
bishops obliged to submit their pastoral letters and public in- 
structions to the censorship ; not only, by way of precaution, are 
they forbidden to print anything except on the prefective presses, 
but again, for still greater security, the bureau of public worship 
is constantly advising them what they must say. First of all, 
they must laud the Emperor ; and how this must be done, in what 
terms, and with what epithets, so that without indiscretion or 
mistake they may not meddle with politics, may not seem like a 
party managed from above, may not pass for mouthpieces, is not 
indicated, and it is a difficult matter. " You must praise the 
Emperor more in your pastoral letters," said Real, prefect of police, 
to a young bishop. " Tell me in what measure." " I do not know," 
was the reply. ' Since the measure cannot be prescribed, it must 
be ample enough. There is no difficulty as regards other 
articles. 

On every occasion the Paris bureaux take care to furnish each 
bishop with a ready-made draft of his forthcoming pastoral letter 
— the canvas on which the customary flowers of ecclesiastical 
amplification are to be embroidered. It differs according to time 
and place. In La Vendee and in the west, the prelates are to 
stigmatize " the odious machinations of perfidious Albion," and 
explain to the faithful the persecutions to which the English sub- 
ject the Irish Catholics. When Russia is the enemy, the pastoral 
letter must dwell on her being schismatic; also on the Russian 
non-recognition of the supremacy of the Pope. Inasmuch as 
bishops are functionaries of the empire, their utterances and their 
acts belong to the Emperor. Consequently he makes use of 
them against all enemies, against each rival, rebel, or adversary, 



NAPOLEON'S VIEWS OF RELIGION. 579 

against the Bourbons, against the English and the Russians, and 
finally against the Pope. 

Similar to the Russian expedition, this is the great and last 
throw of the dice, the decisive and most important of his ecclesi- 
astical undertakings, as the others are in political and in military 
affairs. Just as, under his leadership, he forces coalition of the 
political and military powers of his Europe against the Czar, — 
Austria, Prussia, the Confederation of the Rhine, Holland, Switz- 
erland, the kingdom of Italy, Naples, and even Spain, — so does 
he force, under his lead, a coalition of all the spiritual authorities 
of his empire against the Pope. He summons a council, con- 
sisting of eighty-four bishops that are available in Italy 
and in France. He takes it upon himself to drill them and make 
them march. Toward the end the council is suddenly dissolved 
because scruples arise, because it does not yield at once to the 
pressure brought to bear on it, because its mass constitutes 
its firmness, because its members, standing close to- 
gether, side by side, stand all the longer. " Our life 
is not good in the cask," said Cardinal Maury ; 
"you will find it better in bottles." Accordingly, to make it 
ready for bottling, it must be filtered and clarified, so as to get 
rid of the bad elements which disturb it and cause fermentation. 
Some of the opposition are in prison, many have retired from 
their dioceses, while the rest are brought to Paris and cunningly 
worked upon, each member in turn, cautioned in a mess-room, 
tSte-d-tHe with the the Minister of Worship, until all severally 
sign the formula of adhesion. On the strength of this, the 
council, purged and prepared, is summoned afresh to give its vote 
sitting or standing, in one unique session ; through a remnant of 
virtue it inserts a suspensive clause in the decree, apparently a 
reservation, but the decree is still passed as ordered. Like the 
foreign regiment in an army corps which, enlisted, forced into line, 
and goaded on with a sharp sword, serves, in spite of itself, against 
its legitimate prince, unwilling to march forward to the attack, 
meaning at the last moment to fire in the air, so does it march 
and fire its volley notwithstanding. 

Napoleon, on the other hand, treats the Pope in the same 
fashion, and with like skill and brutality. As with the Russian 
campaign, he has prepared himself for it long beforehand. At the 
outset there is an alliance, and he concedes great advantages to 



580 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

the Pope as to the Czar, which will remain to them after his fall ; 
but these concessions are made only with a mental reservation, 
with the instinctive feeling and predetermination to profit by the 
alliance, even to making an independent sovereign, whom he re- 
cognizes as his equal, his subordinate and his tool. Hence this 
time, also, quarrels and war. His strategy against the Pope is 
admirable, — the entire ecclesiastical territory studied beforehand, 
the objective point selected, all disposable forces employed and 
directed by fixed marches to where the victory is to be decisive, 
the conquest extended and the seat of the final dominion estab- 
lished ; the successive and simultaneous use of every kind of 
means — cunning, violence, seduction, and terror ; calculation of 
the weariness, anxiety, and despair of the adversary ; at first 
menaces and constant disputes, and then flashes of lightning and 
multiplied claps of thunder, every species of brutality that force 
can command ; the states of the church invaded in times of 
peace, Rome surprised and occupied by soldiers, the Pope 
besieged in the Quirinal, in a year the Quirinal taken by a 
nocturnal assault, the Pope seized and carried off by post to 
Savona and there confined as a prisoner of state almost in cellu- 
lar seclusion, subject to the entreaties and manoeuvres of an 
adroit prefect who works upon him, of the physician who is a 
paid spy, of the servile bishops who are sent thither, alone with 
his conscience, contending with inquisitors relieving each other, 
subject to moral tortures as subtile and as keen as old-time 
physical tortures, to tortures so steady and persistent that he 
sinks, loses his .head, " no longer sleeps and scarcely speaks," 
falling into a senile condition, and even more than senile conditi- 
tion — " a state of mental alienation." Then, on issuing from this, 
the poor old man is again beset ; finally, after waiting patiently 
for three years, he is once more brusquely conducted at night, 
secretly and incognito over the entire road, with no repose or 
pity, though ill, except stopping once in a snowstorm at the 
hospice on Mont Cenis, where he comes near dying, put back 
after twenty-four hours in his carriage, bent double by suffering 
and in constant pain, jolting over the pavement of the grand high- 
way until almost dead, he is landed at Fontainebleau, where Na- 
poleon wishes to have him ready at hand to work upon. " In- 
deed," he himself says, " he is a lamb, an excellent, worthy man 
whom I esteem and am very fond of." A tSte-d-Ute not ex- 



NAPOLEON'S VIEWS OF RELIGION. 581 

pected may probably prove effective with this gentle, candid, and 
tender spirit. Pius VIL, who had never known ill-will, might be 
won by kindly treatment, by an air of filial respect, by caresses ; 
he may feel the personal ascendency of Napoleon, the prestige of 
his presence and conversation, the invasion of his genius, inex- 
haustible in argument, matchless in the adaptation of ideas 
to circumstances, the most amiable and most imperious of 
interlocutors, stentorian and mild, tragic and comic by turns, 
the most eloquent of sophists, and the most irresistible of 
fascinators, who, on meeting a man face to face, wins him, 
conquers him, and obtains the mastery. In effect, after see- 
ing the Pope for six days, Napoleon obtains by persuasion what 
he could not obtain afar by constraint. Pius VII. signs the new 
concordat in good faith, himself unaware that, on regaining his 
freedom and surrounded by his cardinals, Who inform him on the 
political situation, he will emerge from bewilderment, be attacked 
by his conscience, and, through his office, publicly accuse him- 
self, humbly repent, and in two months withdraw his signature. 
Such, after 1812 and 1813, is the duration of Napoleon's tri- 
umphs and the ephemeral result of his greatest military and eccle- 
siastical achievements — Moskowa, Lutzen, Bautzen, and Dresden, 
the council of 1811, and the concordat of 1813. Whatever the 
vastness of his genius may be, however strong his will, however 
successful his attacks, his success against sections and churches 
never is, and never can be, other than temporary. Great histori- 
ical and moral forces elude his grasp. In vain does he strike, for 
their downfall gives them new life, and they rise beneath the blow. 
With Catholic institutions, as with other powers, not only do his 
efforts remain sterile, but what he accomplishes remains inverse 
to the end he has in view. He aims to subjugate the Pope, and 
he led the Pope on to omnipotence. He aims at the maintenance 
and strength of the Gallican spirit among the French clergy, and 
he caused the dominion of the ultramontane spirit. With extra- 
ordinary energy and tenacity, with all his power, which was enor- 
mous, through the systematic and constant application of most 
diverse and extreme measures, he labored for fifteen years to 
sunder the ties of the Catholic hierarchy, tear this to pieces, and, 
in sum, the final result of all is to bind them together faster and 
hasten their completion. 

H. A. Taine.